Gretchen Golz was in the second grade when her parents divorced. That traumatic event began what Gretchen describes as a ‘cycle of emotional eating’ that followed her into adolescence and young adulthood. As a college student, Gretchen tried various diets that led to minimal weight loss, but after she graduated and began her first job, she regained all the weight—and more.
“When I started working at the YMCA, I found my happy place. I loved everything about it — the positive atmosphere, the corporate mission, and the people we serve,” says Gretchen. “Oddly enough, even though I was working for an organization dedicated to helping people attain a healthy lifestyle, I continued to gain weight. It was frustrating.”
Gretchen and her husband Jason married in 2011, and in 2014 they celebrated the birth of their son Joshua. Two years later, baby brother William was born. It was a joyful time in the Golz household, but like many new moms, Gretchen was tired. Her weight continued to climb, and soon the scale delivered some grim news; Gretchen weighed 280 pounds. At a size 24/26, it was hard for her to find clothing that fit. She was morbidly obese, and diet and exercise weren’t helping her lose weight. She was running out of options.
“Then one day at our Mommy and Me playgroup, another mom shared that she had undergone bariatric surgery. She looked great, and I was intrigued,” Gretchen explains. “She told me Dr. Brandon Roy was her surgeon. I wanted to know more.”
Gretchen attended a surgical information session with Dr. Roy at WakeMed Bariatric Surgery & Medical Weight Loss, an accredited center of excellence. “He was very knowledgeable and conveyed a quiet confidence, telling me that through WakeMed’s bariatric program, I could achieve my weight loss goals if I committed to the program,” says Gretchen. “I felt like this was the solution I’d been looking for.”
Bariatric Surgery: Gretchen’s Choice for Long-Term Health
As part of WakeMed’s continuum of care, each weight loss patient is encouraged to pursue non-surgical avenues before having an invasive bariatric procedure. Gretchen was required to meet with registered dietitian for six months of nutritional counseling prior to surgery. “I continued to lose and then gain back the same 10 pounds,” Gretchen says. “That’s when we realized gastric bypass was the best option for me. However, I appreciate that surgery is Dr. Roy’s last method of choice for helping people like me lose weight.”
Gretchen also met with other team members from the bariatric surgery program, including a therapist for a psychological evaluation to ensure she was emotionally prepared for her gastric bypass. She then met with a physical trainer to discuss movement and how to safely and effectively exercise following her procedure.
In July 2017, Dr. Roy performed Gretchen’s successful gastric bypass surgery, and she immediately began to drop weight. The dietician explained to Gretchen that, after bariatric surgery, it’s not uncommon for patients to lose their appetite. Nutritionists frequently use this time as an opportunity to retrain patients on the proper, healthy way to eat. “She held me accountable while providing me with the education and meal planning tools I needed to help me stay on track,” says Gretchen. “Within a year, I had lost 130 pounds. I felt like a new person.”
A New Addition to the Golz Family
Gretchen and Jason were thrilled when they found out they were expecting their third child. Gretchen had a healthy pregnancy and even taught fitness classes at the Alexander YMCA in Raleigh up until her third trimester. “I was really active, and I had lots of energy for walking and playing with our two sons,” she says. “But things got a little complicated when it was time to have our daughter Tilly.”
About two weeks prior to her delivery, Gretchen began having some digestion problems but didn’t think much of it. In early March 2021, she and Jason traveled to WakeMed Raleigh Campus, where they welcomed their healthy baby girl at 11:24 pm.
“After my labor and delivery, I was famished, so around 2 am, I ate a turkey sandwich. Just a few minutes later, I became sick and couldn’t hold down any food or drink,” says Gretchen. “My postpartum nurse Casey was concerned and reached out to discuss my symptoms with the physician on call, Dr. Joel Bernstein of Kamm McKenzie OB-GYN.”
After reviewing Gretchen’s medical chart, Dr. Bernstein decided to consult with the surgeon on call, Dr. Michael Williford of WakeMed General Surgery. Since Gretchen had been a bariatric patient, the colleagues believed the problem could be a perforation in her stomach. However, they soon determined she had developed an internal hernia — a complication that is not uncommon after bariatric surgery. Dr. Williford performed the necessary hernia repair, and Gretchen had a healthy recovery.
Following her maternity leave, the 35-year-old mom of three will return to teaching cycle, fitness boot camp, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and strength training this month at the YMCA. She’ll also continue her annual follow-ups with Dr. Roy.
“I’m so thankful for the collaborative nature of my entire health care team at WakeMed,” Gretchen says. “From Dr. Roy and the Bariatric & Weight Loss staff to Dr. Bernstein and Dr. Williford — they all worked so well together to take excellent care of me during these major events in my life. I can’t say thank you enough.”